What Is a Bariatric Lift?

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  • Written By: Elizabeth West
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 14 September 2019
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With hospitals and care facilities taking on more obese patients, a bariatric lift has become a necessary piece of equipment. Moving seriously overweight people in a healthcare facility is more difficult than dealing with patients of average size. Budget and staffing cuts mean there may not be a specially-trained lift team available at any given time, and the risk of injury to caregivers is higher. Bariatric lifts come in several types, and make the necessary task of lifting these patients easier and safer.

When nurses and caregivers move non-ambulatory patients they often rely on a patient lift with a sling that either holds the patient or a stretcher. It works via a hydraulic pump. A bariatric lift has either one or two electric motors for extra power. It can be ceiling-mounted on a track that covers an entire room, or a portable unit that can be wheeled around the facility. It is usually rated up to 1,000 pounds (about 455 kg), while a rating of up to 400 pounds (about 182 kg) is typical for a regular lift.


Without the bariatric lift, caregivers have to use a manual lifting team, which requires more people. Even with the unit, a bariatric team should have special training to avoid hurting themselves or the patient. Back injuries are a leading cause of lost work time among healthcare employees, mostly from moving patients of all sizes. A motorized unit not only keeps limited personnel from being pulled off their other duties to assist but reduces the risk of injury to both the team and the patient.

The bariatric lift is different from a regular patient lift. It is larger, with a bigger frame and sling and can generally be operated by less people at a time. The frame is also larger, which for mobile units may require bigger hallways and wider doorways. A bariatric lift used for gait training holds patients upright as they practice walking and has a smaller sling and easy-to-maneuver wheels. Of course, these devices will cost more than a standard assistive unit.

Obese patients are at higher risk of serious health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, respiratory issues and arthritis. All these conditions make moving or repositioning them difficult, because they may have great difficulty aiding the effort. They may often be embarrassed or uncomfortable with the procedure due to unpleasant prior experiences, and this can make caregivers uncomfortable also. Slings and assistive devices may cause problems if patients can't recline without breathing difficulty. Fortunately, the typical bariatric lift has a feature that allows the patient to remain in an upright seated position.


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